Villanova coach Wright avoids ghosts of 2005 loss

The last time Villanova and North Carolina met, 4 years ago in the Sweet 16, the Tar Heels won by one.

But not before a controversial call by official Tom O'Neill turned a possible game-tying, three-point play by Allan Ray into a walk with 9 seconds left.

Yesterday, Jay Wright was asked what he remembered most about that night in Syracuse.

"I'd never thought about that connection, that now we're playing them again, until you just brought it up," he said. "We kind of just tried to move on."

'Nova Nation no doubt has longer memories.

"You're absolutely right," he went on. "I'm surprised no one's said that to me. But I've been doing all my little basketball-world stuff. That has to be a theme that fans will remember."

Wright was aware that O'Neill was the referee for the crew who worked Saturday night's 78-76 East Regional win over Pittsburgh.

"That I knew," Wright conceded. "I tell you what, you got to give him credit. He did a good job. I'll admit, I was scared. When I got that [news], they only give it to you about an hour before the game . . . first time I've ever seen him [since then]. I was shocked when I saw that. Just couldn't believe it.

"We said hello to each other. We didn't say anything during the game. We didn't get into anything. I purposely tried to stay away. He didn't do anything."

The Tar Heels, of course, went on to win it all that year.

"That game, for them, might have been like our Pitt game," Wright noted. "That was a scare for them. And this was a big scare for us. Great game, but, phew."

Maybe this one will provide even more waiting-to-exhale material. *